US FEDERAL prosecutors hit Pfizer with a record-breaking $2.3 billion (€1.61bn) in fines yesterday and called the world’s largest drug maker a repeating corporate cheat for illegal drug promotions that plied doctors with free golf, massages, and resort junkets.
Announcing the penalty as a warning to all drug manufacturers, US Justice Department officials said the overall settlement is the largest ever paid by a drug company for alleged violations of federal drug rules, and the $1.2bn criminal fine is the largest ever in any US criminal case. The total includes $1bn in civil penalties and a $100 million criminal forfeiture.
Authorities called Pfizer a repeat offender, noting it is the company’s fourth such settlement of government charges in the last decade. The allegations surround the marketing of 13 different drugs, including big sellers such as Viagra, Zoloft, and Lipitor.
As part of its illegal marketing, Pfizer invited doctors to consultant meetings at resort locations, paying their expenses and providing perks.
“They were entertained with golf, massages, and other activities,” said Mike Loucks, the US attorney in Massachusetts.
Mr Loucks said that even as Pfizer was negotiating deals on past misconduct, they were continuing to violate the very same laws with other drugs.
To prevent backsliding this time, Pfizer’s conduct will be specially monitored by the Health and Human Service Department for five years.
In an unusual twist, the head of the Justice Department, Attorney General Eric Holder, did not participate in the record settlement, because he had represented Pfizer while in private practice.
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